Ministry

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the second in that series—the story of Isaí González and his wife Tifany, pastors of the new church, Casa del Rey, in Mérida, Yucatán in the developing neighborhood of Los Héroes.

Los Héroes is a young suburb on the eastern periphery of the city of Mérida, but the colorful facades of its new houses and the bustling activity of its thriving businesses do little to alleviate the loneliness and anxiety that plague its residents. Many of its current occupants have upended their lives elsewhere in the country to look for new opportunities that the relative safety of the capital city of Yucatan affords. It was to meet the needs of these young families that Isaí and Tifany decided to plant Casa del Rey in 2016.

We first met Isaí in Instituto Biblico Bethel, where he was a member of Dave’s first church planting class in 2012. Recalling that formative time, Isaí stated that he’d learned from Dave that the success of the implementation of a project is in its planning: visiting the area, collecting information, and asking for the Lord’s direction. This is the same methodology he’s now applying to the benefit of the residents of Los Heroes.

Emphasizing a vision of multiplication, they’ve fostered steady numerical growth and have facilitated significant personal transformation in the lives of the residents of Los Héroes. The Ruiz family* is one example of the change that has occurred. Attempting to start over after economic disaster nearly destroyed their marriage, Lalo* and Luisa* arrived in Los Héroes broken and hurting, but, through the invitation of a church member, they attended service at Casa del Rey and were touched by the presence of God. Since that first service, they’ve given their lives to the Lord, experienced restoration, and are actively participating in the church’s ministry.

Whereas the rapid growth has brought with it its share of complications, such as the need to undertake an eight-month building project to expand their facilities, Isaí and Tifany continue to strive to fulfill their vision, turning now to cell groups to increase their impact and meet needs in Los Heroes.

We’re grateful for the privilege to work with people like Isaí and Tiffany, people achieving breakthroughs in their area of ministry. And, as we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we want to take this time to thank you for your prayers and support, which grant us this opportunity.

*Name changed

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In our fall newsletter, we spoke of testimonies of breakthrough in the Yucatan. This article is the first in that series—the story of a pair of church planters, Kary and Lily.

Kary and Lily had felt for some time that they had been born for something more. Still, adversity nearly short-circuited that call. It took the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit to help Kary take the step of faith toward ministry, while a missions trip encouraged Lily to prepare herself. Both are currently enrolled at Instituto Bíblico Bethel.

Nevertheless, Blanca Flor, the site of their church plant, was not their original ministry destination; they had signed up to study church planting simply to assist others. However, the homework assignment they were given in their first class, to establish relationships with people outside of the reach of the evangelical church, moved them out of their comfort zone.

What they found was a forgotten place at the end of a barely passable road, a town of about 60 people who earn their living by the crops that they manage to grow. Their needs, however, are direr than their situation suggests. As the women put it, they suffer physically from a thirst for clean water but spiritually from a hunger for the Word of God.

Since that first visit, they’ve established a rapport with the people and have come to understand their needs. While they’ve taught them practical skills, they’ve also opened up the scriptures to help them understand how they speak to their everyday lives. In this way, they’ve introduced new possibilities for revenue, while facilitating conflict resolution and fostering an appreciation for the Word of God.

This initial impact has increased their conviction to build a church in Blanca Flor—a people and a place to serve as a permanent testimony of God’s love and care for this community. But their passion doesn’t end there! They encourage others to follow in their footsteps: “Don’t close yourselves within the walls of the church,” they say. “Open yourselves up to the possibility of making a difference. Why work in a place where others are already working? There are places with no workers who need to hear the gospel!”

People like Kary and Lily are working throughout the region to see the vision of the Yucatan peninsula full of churches become a reality. Stay tuned for more of their stories, and thanks for your prayers and support which give us the opportunity to encourage and resource the breakthrough their efforts are achieving.

Have your kids ever gotten a clothing gift from a relative that was a bit too big?  Was your advice that they would “grow into it?” My own kids cringe at that snippet of wisdom, desiring it to fit now!  I believe that concept with clothing can apply just as aptly to our roles in life and ministry.

Arriving on the field, I felt my primary role was to provide stability and safety for my children as I, personally, engaged in ministry that fit well with their young ages.  Dave might be traveling and teaching, but I was content to support him and the kids with my role at home and with local church kids’ ministry.

The following term, the need arose for a new Mexico field treasurer due to the restructuring of our field fellowship.  Having been a former high school math teacher, I had the ability and the desire to step into this new “behind the scenes,” yet key, leadership role.  It took a bit of courage, but with our kids getting older,  I found it to be a perfect fit for that particular season.

Now that we have a daughter in college and two sons in high school, I find myself “testing the fit.” Continuing in the treasurer position, I now also feel the freedom to do more alongside Dave – taking trips, assisting in conferences and classes, and participating with teams, both translating and getting my “hands dirty” with some of the physical work that they do. My latest opportunity came through one of those team experiences – hosting our district superintendent Don Miller and his wife, Vicki, here in Mexico.  The connection I made with Vicki opened the door for me to participate in, and now lead, one of the SOMO District’s online small groups, which bring women ministers together for prayer, mutual encouragement and spiritual growth.  That role has since expanded to include helping to administrate the website, mailings, and social media that facilitate that ministry. 

I’ll never stop being a mom, but I see how permitting myself to flex as my kids grow has opened doors of increased involvement in other areas of ministry.  So, as I reflect on my time in Mexico, it’s clear to see I’ve “grown into it,” and I expect that I’ll continue to do so for years to come.

Thanks for taking a moment to read a bit of my story. While you’re here, could I ask you the favor of taking a moment to pray for us? You can find our list of requests here

In our April update, we took time to highlight the ministry of Light for the Lost. Through their support, we were able to furnish all of our church planters with the evangelism materials that they needed to effectively present the gospel to the unsaved in the neighborhoods, towns, and villages where they are starting new works. In this July report, we’re excited to update that story as we’ve been able to extend that support to churches throughout the district of Yucatán.

Leading the District Evangelism Department since July of last year, we’ve been promoting the idea that the local church is the engine that drives evangelism. It is therefore a pleasure to support these pastors and congregations, utilizing our network to distribute some 68,000 tracts and 600 Bibles in support of their evangelistic efforts. We’re convinced that through their desire to reach the lost and the use of these tools, their outreaches will leave a lasting impact.

We are also providing churches with a particularly exciting tool: Respuestas De La Vida (Journey Answers) cards. Designed to follow up gospel conversations or be left with restaurant servers, gas station attendants, taxi drivers, etc., these cards lead the lost to an online, relevant gospel presentation and a site where they can respond with questions, prayer requests, or make a decision for Christ. These respondents can then be directed to any one of our local congregations for continued discipleship. Our hope is that this mass distribution will lead many to respond to the gospel and connect with a church home.

Of course, this kind of operation does create its share of complications. Our spare bedroom has since turned into a warehouse/staging center as we prepare evangelism packets for distribution! Still, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to take another step toward fulfilling the vision of the Yucatan full of churches.

Pray with us, then, that these messages will reach their intended audience and influence them to become disciples of Christ. And, as you do pray, would you please add these additional needs to your list?

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Growth mindset—you may know it as a term trending on Twitter, but we consider it an essential missionary quality. More than mere positive thinking, it’s about embracing problems as opportunities to find solutions. It’s the belief that, when things get difficult, a bit of extra effort can make a difference. Analysis, intervention, and discovery are basic activities for the development of a growth mindset, and it’s just that type of activity that we’ve been involved in during the last month as we continue forward in our church planting journey.

One of the main challenges we face as we seek to fill the Yucatan with churches is the lack of trained workers. In fact, the majority of church planters throughout Latin America are laity, men and women with a deep sense of calling, but a shallow ministerial formation. The problem, however, isn’t the lack of availability of training, it’s that those who receive training increasingly move toward other forms of ministry.

In April, I teamed up with missionary, Jerry Brown, to tackle this issue head on in the seminar, “Encouraging Church Planting in the Bible School,” given during the Educators’ Summit in Honduras. There, we brought the issue before Bible school educators, gathered from throughout Central America, calling them to pray, teach, and encourage students to take part in this vital ministry.

Now while it’s good to talk about problems, it’s even better to be a part of the solution. It’s an honor, then, to be able to intervene in our own context at Bethel Bible Institute, where we are currently teaching a class designed to take 20 students through the practical steps of planting a church. Here, we get to practice what we’ve been preaching!

For all that we are doing, though, we understand that there are solutions that remain undiscovered. That’s why we joined with over 30 church planting missionaries to learn about Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison’s Acts 2 Journey for healthy churches held in Mexico City.

Thank you for all you do to facilitate this activity, helping us to grow, that we might, together, extend His Kingdom!

As president of the Department of Evangelism of the District of Yucatan, we’ve been given a tremendous platform from which to launch a church planting program. But as our planters enter into this their third month of the process, which emphasizes evangelism and small group formation, the question arises: “How can they do the work without the proper tools?”

Take a look at the above video message for insight into how Light for the Lost is helping us to answer this question.

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I’m sending along an update from the road, literally! I traveled to Valladolid, Yucatán for our first church planter’s module. It was one of five modules taking place simultaneously throughout the district. I made this video to give a bit of a recap of where we’ve come from and where we believe we’re headed with God’s help.

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Commencement. It’s a word that takes us back to our college days; it makes us think of those graduation ceremonies that, for many of us marked the end of our formal education. The word commencement, however, also speaks of a beginning. This month, we’re experiencing the dual significance of that word. January 12th marks the commencement (ending) of our church planting pilot project while January 19th is the commencement (beginning) of our new program, now no longer a pilot project but a district-wide undertaking.

ln 2016, we introduced Red de Multiplicación here in the Yucatan, and the six pictures that you see above are of the graduates of that program. Their commencement, however, marks much more than the end of a course of study. It is the celebration of the new churches and the changed lives that their perseverance and practice have facilitated. While we say goodbye to several of them as active participants in the program, we launch them with the confidence that they’ve acquired the mindset and practices that will ensure that the works that they lead will continue to flourish.

In 2017, we began the cycle again, casting vision, setting goals, and encouraging participation. The preparation now ceases and the work begins, distributed across 5 sites and employing 15 coordinators and teachers to facilitate the work of dozens of planters (represented above behind our graduates) as they look to fulfill the shared vision of the Yucatan full of churches.

We covet your prayers as we celebrate these commencements. Please add both our graduates, Sara, Moises, Reina, Fausto, Alex and Luis to your prayer list as well as those new workers that are now following the path that they have blazed.

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“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2 NLT

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, it is important to understand what, in essence, occurred on the day of Christ’s birth. John 1 speaks of the event as the incarnation of the Word (1:14). To explain it, however, he uses two other ideas: life and light. Life, in that His was the active force of the creation that which brought into being all things and, as Colossians 1:15-17 states, that which sustains it. Light, referring to the revelation of this truth, the hope and direction that a belief in this creating and sustaining power and submission to it brings.

What strikes me about the nature of Christ’s birth, which is consistent with this concept of light and life, is its pervasiveness; it refused to be contained. From the announcement of the angels to the shepherds and their subsequent testimony of the event (Luke 2:8-20), to the star that led the wise men to announce and seek out the “king” who had been born (Matthew 2:1-12), the news spread far and wide. No one, not even those in the loftiest places of power and influence or the holiest places of worship were immune to its effect or exempt from a response to this revelation, this breaking in, this invasion.

John the Baptist, the witness to the light, illustrates its effect on the society of the day. His testimony of that light had created such a ruckus, making honest men out of tax collectors and moving Roman soldiers to repentance (Luke 3:7-14), that even the religious elite of the day were forced to deal with him (John 1:19-28).

It is that light of Christ and the example of his light bearers that we desire to emulate here in the Yucatan. As we continue with our efforts to see the Yucatan full of churches, our prayer is that that pervasive quality of the light of Christ would again be felt. Since September, we’ve held five major events calling on both leaders and laity to plant churches. It is our desire that the more than seventy individuals registered to start works in the coming months, the fruit of those events would be but the beginning trickle of the flood that will pour forth from the four walls of the church to proclaim the message of Immanuel, God with us, and that society again would be moved.

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On October 20th and 21st, leaders from throughout the district of Yucatan gathered together for a historic event called the Escuela de Multiplicadores (Multipliers’ School). This two-day session was held in preparation for the kickoff of our new church planting cycle, utilizing materials and methods from Red de Multiplicación (RdM). Its goal was to provide the information and the inspiration necessary to set goals for church planting in the two-year period ending in May of 2019 .

The event was a historic one, not because of the methods and materials that we were explaining (we had introduced materials from RdM in June of 2016), but because this was the first time that district officials had ever gathered to prioritize and strategize for the planting of churches in this way. The outcome of this first ever effort was more than what we could have hoped for.

Arturo Robles, the National Coordinator for RdM joined us from Mexico City for the event. During the sessions, he explained the philosophies and function of RdM and emphasized the belief that a healthy church was a reproducing church. He encouraged each participant to to be involved not simply in the growth of their church but also in its multiplication. It was gratifying to see the vision of the district of Yucatan full of churches becoming clearer to our pastors as they came to under-stand their role in its realization.

The time together culminated in a round table discussion led by our regional presbyters in which they challenged our participants to respond to the question ”What should we do?” We asked them to fix a number of churches to be planted as a goal to be reached by 2019. Reflecting back on the past two years, we found that 17 churches had been added to the 225 already in the district, bringing us to the present total of 242. As the numbers from each table were reported, the regions set a future goal to plant 158 churches, a growth of over 900% in comparison with the previous period. The sense of hope and commitment that that number represented brought tears of joy to our eyes.

The Escuela de Multiplicadores was indeed a breakthrough for our church planting efforts, something we celebrate. We understand, however, that the work is still ahead—in the recruitment of workers and the mentors that will guide and encourage them. That is the focus of this month of November. Will you pray that many will answer the call?

Photo Captions:

  • Arturo Robles, National Coordinator of Red de Multiplicación trains district leaders during the Escuela de Multiplicadores (large).
  • Regional Presbyter Juan Hau encourages participants from the western region in the goal planning session (top).
  • Regional Presbyter Raúl Sánchez takes a moment during discussions in the central region (bottom corner).
  • Dave shares inspiration from Isaiah 6 during the morning devotional (bottom right).

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